Catalan president postpones independence to seek dialogue with Madrid

World Today

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont signs an independence declaration document after a parliamentary session in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Puigdemont says he has a mandate to declare independence for the northeastern region, but proposes waiting “a few weeks” in order to facilitate a dialogue. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The Catalan president announced a path to independence from Spain, but said he wants to talk first. Now, Madrid is weighing its nuclear option.

CGTN’s Guy Henderson reports from Barcelona.

Follow Guy Henderson on Twitter @guyhendersonde

Carles Puigdemont arrived at the Catalan parliament a hero to those backing independence. As many as 20,000 waited outside, with many expecting nothing less than a clean break from Spain.

Spirits remained high despite an hour’s delay, but then actual the moment came. It was not until the very end that the key lines came.

“The government and myself, we propose that Parliament suspend the effects of a declaration of independence, so that in the next few weeks we start a dialogue, without which it is not possible to get to a concerted solution,” the President Puigdemont said.

Sighs of relief emanated in some parts of Barcelona, but outside the parliament building, there was frustration, and no cheers.

“I came expecting a unilateral Declaration of Independence, now they’ve said they’re going to suspend that until they talk,” a spectator said.  “I guess I don’t know what they know. I still think we’ll get an independent Catalan state.”

“We were expecting a unilateral declaration,” another said. “But we understand it can’t be that easy, and that it has to be a step by step process.”

Throughout the day, the Catalan government had remained tight-lipped.

After a cabinet meeting, a spokesman only said “we are all very sure of what we are going to do.”

Dialogue seemed far off.

“The only ones who don’t converse, and I have to say this every time, is the Spanish government,” pro-independence activist Jordi Sanchez said. “They refuse to converse and they refuse to listen to the majority of the country.”

A new offer is on the table for weeks, not months. After that, a signed Declaration of Independence will kick in. So now, Madrid must decide if it’s willing to change its mind, which seems unlikely.

“Neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim, without coming back to legality and democracy, to impose mediation,” according to Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister. “Any dialogue between democrats has to take place within the law, respecting the rules of the game and not inventing them in their advantage.”

Jeremy Edwards on the Catalan President’s speech and its implications

CGTN’s Asieh Namdar spoke with Jeremy Edwards, a writer on European affairs, about Catalan President Puigdemont’s speech and its implications for Catalonia and Spain.